Sunday, October 30, 2005

I Went to Prison Today

not as an inmate, but to pick one up who had been released. The Abbess of St. Paisius asked if I'd do them a "pastoral favor"... how can you say "NO" to an Abbess? Anyway, S.K. was imprisoned for drug use and prostitution.

She was being released on Sunday morning. She called and asked if I could pick her up. I kind of hesitated...right in the middle of Matins and I'm the Reader for our mission. But then I thought, oh yeah...sure, I'll pass by on the other side because I'm going to the Temple and can't be bothered with a wounded body lying by the side of the road. OK. That nanosecond of hesitation is worthy of repentance. Some day the gospel will sink in....

I learned early on in "pastoral ministry" classes that you never leave yourself alone with a woman in a "counseling situation". Transporting a prostitute to a halfway house alone? ehhhh...yeah. I figured it might be a good idea to take another woman with me. But who from the Mission could I take? My wife is the only person in our Mission who can carry everyone in the choir and is the choir director. Bill (my co-host on the radio show) can read, so I took his wife with me. We arrived and waited almost two hours in the parking lot of the prison for her to be released. She is 50-ish, haggard and, if a prostitute, would be the object of someone's absolute desperation for human contact. We talked while we took her to Walmart to buy her some clothes and personal items, then to Taco Bell for the first fast food she'd had in almost two years. Then to the halfway house to check in but which didn't open the doors until 5pm, to my house for the afternoon, then back to the halfway house.

All of her family, mother, father, brothers, step family, and kids are on drugs. Some have died, committed suicide and several are in prison. She has one sober brother. She is afraid. Her stomach hurt from fear. She is out of prison, clean and sober and knows no one, has no one and is in a strange town. A perfect recipe for relapse. She wants to call us, she hints and fishes around for more help than we are able to give. I deflect the bait and talk about recovery, fear and staying focussed on the future. She says I sound like someone who is in recovery. I just say we are ALL in recovery from life and sin. She laughs, "Yeah, I guess you're right...that's good, I'll remember that..." She says her life is in the hands of the Lord. Foxhole conversion? I dunno. I've heard that before from druggies coming off detox and rehab. I always pray its real. It is real, I suppose, at the moment, like for all of us. Staying real in the long run? God only knows.

I parked at the curb, got her bag, and we wove our way through all the crazy homeless people congregated at the door of the shelter hoping for a bed for the night. She had a ticket, they didn't. She went in the door, turned and looked like a child walking through the doors of first grade away from her mother for the first time. I looked at all the people she would be cast in with at the shelter. They are all in prison.

Prison. Self made, man made, chemical, environmental, forced upon us, chosen by us, they are all hell. "Bring my soul out of prison that I may praise Thy name..." Lord have mercy!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Death by Computer

Ohhhh kaaayyyyy.... I just spent 4 days recovering from a Windows XP computer crash. I saw it coming like one of those slow motion car wrecks that you know is going to happen and you just sit and watch helplessly. I went to print a document and started getting error messages. I removed and reloaded my printer software... more error messages. Tech support, more error messages, system restore, and error messages that wouldn't stop popping up, then frozen machine hell breaks loose. Nothing moves, nothing loads, nothing makes a sound. I'm staring at a blue screen headstone.

So, I reinstall XP... and DAMN! I lose everything. Weeks worth of files, radio shows, documents, email, all gone in a nano second. Yeah, yeah...daily back ups... you don't have to tell me twice.

I found a data recovery program for 29.95. Bought it, ran it, got my stuff back as far as I can tell. Now I know why "data doctors" cost so much. I probably spent 20 hours doing the recovery. I just finished reloading all my critical software. What I wouldn't give for Bill Gate's home phone number at 3:30 in the morning......

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Wow! You sure are cussable!

An "attaboy" to the first person who can tell me who said that.

Anyway, I'm sitting here on my other computer waiting for a "data recovery" program to scan my hard drive on my new computer that crashed last night. No, I didn't have a backup...I have a back up of THIS computer but not my new one. I lost about two months worth of radio programs, files and research etc. not to mention all my programs and software I installed for the radio show studio. Oh well...I don't have Bill Gates home phone number to ask him why Windows XP crashed on me after only 8 weeks of using it.

Other than that, life is still as hectic as a one armed wallpaper hanger (that's construction lingo). I had two full time jobs and 7 "side jobs" last week. I worked on an NFL player's house referred by a Diamondbacks pitcher I've worked for, the widow of a former US Senator, and the grand daughter of the founder of Ping golf clubs, and a couple just ordinary rich people and Safeway grocery store's corporate headquarters. But you know what? Drywall and paint is still drywall and paint no matter where the house is and who lives in it or what they do for a living. I treat all my clients the same way whether they live in a trailer or a 20,000 sq ft. house on a hillside. And I do the same quality work for both.

That just makes my life easier to have one facade instead of many, and it keeps me sane not having to remember how awestruck to act at someone's credentials or job or the cost of their doorknobs.

I just viewed the post and I have NO idea how and why those words got underlined.

Friday, October 21, 2005

I've Moved Some Stuff

to another blog. I decided to keep the Introduction to Life, Death and Love: A Journey Through Spiritual Despair here but move the entire manuscript to its own blog. The only thing that will be posted there is the manuscript. This blog will continue to be just my pithless thoughts on daily life in my current world.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Life, Death and Love

I found an old manuscript for a book that I wrote during the late 80's. I remembered writing it, but the computer I wrote it on long since died and I thought it was all in there. I was cleaning my bookshelves and found a tattered manila folder and in it was a sheaf of yellowed, wrinkled and hand-edited papers: my manuscript for "Life, Death and Love: The Heart of Sorrows". It was a time of spiritual desperation that I still vividly recall, but for the most part no longer exist in. By God's mercy, I only now visit the shadows of spiritual desperation, not live in the dark abyss continually. I may post it entirely here, I may do excerpts... I don't know. Much of what is in it is intensely autobiographical and personal, as perhaps a book on spiritual despair must be since it cannot be written about adequately from an academic viewpoint. Anyway, here is the introduction. Perhaps more to come....

LIFE, DEATH AND LOVE: The Heart of Sorrows
A Journey Through Spiritual Despair


This is a book about sorrow. It is not about crisis, of some extraordinary evil or desperate station in life dealt you by fate or choice or Satan or God. It is of a kind of life, a life of mourning, of a spiritual melancholy, of perpetual sorrows of a depth and intensity that can only come from believing in God, or longing to believe in God in the face of the chaotic ambiguities and havoc of life.

This book is for the ones who find the experience of spiritual joy elusive. It is for you who feel guilty because you fake the happy Christian life to be accepted by a group who, deep inside, you believe are for the most part faking it too. It is for those who find more reasons to question God, to rail at Him, to argue with Him than to praise Him. It is for those who have a deep and hurting hollow place within them that no sermon, no prayer, no scripture verse, no spiritual exercise has ever touched with healing. It is for those who struggle silently with a sense of abandonment and loneliness in the midst of friends and lovers. It is for those who are exhausted by desperation and waiting for God. It is for those who sometimes feel they can wait on Him no longer and consider death a treasure to be sought more than life. It is for you who have considered suicide because death held out to you an enchanting promise that no logic or philosophy could dissuade you from believing.

I do not come to you like Job's friends with the mirrors and smoke of religion to magically turn the reality of these struggles into a shared illusion of joy. I will not try to tell you a step-by-step plan on how to overcome the sorrows because I do not know one. But neither do I seek one because I am not yet sure that they need to be overcome, or that they can be, or even that they should be. As fearful and as dark as the sorrows come, if they come from God it would serve us well to dwell in them, seek their wisdom and learn their ways: Their ways would lead us to God Himself, the Healer of the broken hearted. So all I will tell you is what I have experienced of God, His presence and absence, about humanness and hopelessness and fear and forsakenness, about faith, about love and hope in these, my sorrows.

I do not presume to think that in my struggles I have asked God any new questions, observed some new manifestation of God's ambiguous presence and appalling and embarrassing absences, or cursed God more articulately for any of it. I make no pretense to have suffered any more angst over the futility of existence or fallen any more deeply into despair at injustice, decay, and finitude than anyone else who walks this world with clear and open eyes. I seek only to cast the Light upon the experience, the One True Light that does not seek to trick the eye and hide the wrinkles and spots, but reveals the realities in all their harsh and glorious truths.

Of what value is this if I cannot give you answers, you ask. If nothing else, you will know you are not alone in your sorrows, nor lost while walking in this way, nor are you unspiritual or lacking faith. I write so you will know, even if you are raging at God in the shadows of death, you are indeed longing after and deep within the heart of God, that you are not opposed to Him and cast off by Him. You will know that yours is the common experience of the prophets, the apostles, and of all true lovers and friends of God.

I give you this, Life, Death and Love, each with its peculiar sorrows. They are each an odd road sign that points into the abyss, the unmapped caverns of spiritual despair. They lead us there because, if we will risk the journey, it is there in the darkness that we will find God silently waiting.

I have decided to move the rest of the manuscript to another blog that will be dedicated solely to this book. If the topic of spiritual despair and dealing with the absence of God, the experience of suicidal thoughts and love and romance as signposts to God, then go to my other blog, Life Death and Love and the entire manuscript will be posted there... eventually......

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Waiting for Tires

I dropped off a couple tires at Discount Tire because I got a citation from the city for having two flat tires on my 1959 Chevy pickup. Actually the two flat tires were the most attractive part of the truck. It needs paint real bad. Instead of waiting for an hour and reading old issues of Sports Illustrated, Car and Driver, and Women's Day I decided to run home and catch up on computer stuff for a minute, answer email, check out a half dozen blogs I check into whenever I can and perhaps make a pithless know who you are... OK, did that and I have ten minutes before I have to go back and pick up the tires, put them on the truck and then take my daughter to her "belt test" at the karate place.

I did karate for a little over a year back in the mid '70's when Kung Fu and Bruce Lee were popular. I did it because I worked at a boy's home with violent kids. My first month there I had to tackle a 12 year old who had a baseball bat and was beating the walls in the house. Fortunately he was big but slow and it was in front of all the kids. The mythology that grew around that take down over the years was interesting. Now, this was BEFORE I took lessons, but I soon began and the kids kind of tweaked the chronology and soon it was being told to the new kids that I was a black belt and did a flying wheel kick and broke the baseball bat and took him down. I allegedly had hands so fast I could take your left eye out, show it to your right eye and give you a heart attack and kill you that way. Reality was, I took lessons and, yeah, I was pretty good. I was matched against a black belt in a dojo match. I was an orange belt. I scored the first two points and humiliated him. He broke my knee and was disqualified. I won but still have a bad knee and only an orange belt. The quotable quote from my karate instructor:
"There's no such thing as a humble black belt...its all an act." hmmmmm....
Gotta go pick up my tires.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Too Much Life

Sheesh... where did the last two weeks go???
Mostly about a gazillion hours into work. Self employment is great as long as you can keep all of your clients happy. In construction that means showing up and doing something visible that they consider worth paying for and getting projects done on time. When you have 4 jobs that all have to be done in the same week, you just go from job to job and work until you get done. Fortunately (in a way) one of my clients is Safeway corporate headquarters and I can work there around the clock because they have 24 hour security guards on the premises. There are actually areas that the guards have to sit and watch us while we work. I guess they don't want us stealing the price of brocolli at next week's produce sale... seriously......

Then I come home and wrestle with my new computer. Installing a printer was a major battle.
Probably 12 hours worth of installing, uninstalling, surfing for drivers, updates, Windows help files, emailing tech support, trying solutions, taking the printer back to Comp USA and getting a new brand, then finding out I have the same issue with the HP that I had with the Epson... AAARRRGGHGHHHH!!!!! Go through that again, except HP's tech support got me hooked up finally.

Out of town a few days. Get off work, run to Tucson to speak at the College ministry (OCF) meetings two Tuesday nights. Then a visit to St. Paisius Monastery for the consecration of their new Church building's altar area. The footings were poured and the site is laid out for the Church. Bishop Longin was there and over 200 people/priests etc. I was privileged to be the "protosealerarch"...during the service I sealed the cannister that holds the relics, holy earth and oil that is embedded in the earth at the site where the altar will be. Now we begin construction!
Then a day trip to St. Anthony's Monastery in Florence to help drywall and finish the new bakery for the monastery. In between all that there's life in general, our new Mission, trying to figure out how to use my new production studio equipment and software for the radio program, recording and producing new programs, and trying to find some time to sleep.

My wife just left at 10:30pm to take our son and his friend back to Tucson. She'll be on the road until 3:00am after getting up this morning at 5:00am to fix food for our Mission agape meal/ coffee hour. Honestly, I pray she makes it back. I know I couldn't drive them, I fall asleep at the wheel in a heartbeat just driving in town. I fed my father in law, changed him and put him to bed. I need to go to bed.

Sometimes I think my life is just way too crazy. Tomorrow I only have two jobs to do. And a radio show to record and produce. A light day. Thank God.